Setting Up a Guitar Class Room For Effective Teaching in an Extended Program
Guitars: Ideally the school should own a classroom set of matched instruments. Most all veteran guitar teachers recommends nylon string (classical) guitars for many reasons: nylon stings put less stress on the instrument, tend to break less frequently than steel, and are easier on beginning fingers. All styles can be played on the instrument and classical bodies are easier to repair than steel string bodies.
Storage: Lockers and or Racks. Whether your students bring in their own guitars or your school supplies the instruments you need to store them. Hanging the instruments on the wall, using a rack system or lockers are all practical solutions.
Individual Guitar stands: Guitar stands are handy in class and essential for performances. Having a teacher guitar stand is useful for securely holding your guitar when you want to move around the room without the instrument.
Podium: If your classroom is one level, a platform/riser is something to consider. You can model proper posture and technique for your students. They will see you better and you can see them.
Music Stands: 1 student per stand is optimum, if necessary 2 or even 3 students per stand can work. If possible try to get stands that are shorter than the normal music stands found in the band room. This will also allow you to observe the students right and left hands for quick assessments.
Footrest or footstool: For proper playing position you need something to elevate your guitar. There are numerous items available to accomplish this. If you can’t purchase commercial footrests you can use cut up lumber. Deck posts that are about 3 X 3 inches cut into 10-inch blocks work well, and 2x4x6 pieces may be hammered or glued together in stacks of varying heights.
Straps: Using guitar straps is a good way to accomplish good posture. It is possible to purchase a card or bag of strap buttons at your local music store. Ask someone handy with a drill to help install the buttons on the guitar. Classic guitar straps are available if you do not want to put strap buttons on nylon string guitars.
Sound and Video system: A system that has inputs for a microphone (it will stress your voice trying to talk over 30 students playing guitar), a drum machine/metronome and your guitar is recommended. It should also have an input for CD and/or MP3/iPod/iPad/smart phone or computer. There are also several downloadable apps, examples like the Amazing SlowDowner (http://www.ronimusic.com) and Capo (http://supermegaultragroovy.com/products/capo/) will let you change the speed without changing the pitch as well as change the pitch and not the tempo of recorded music. If you use electric guitars and/or a bass in class or in a performance, guitar cables of various lengths will be necessary. It is also helpful to have some additional cables/adapters required to plug your smartphone, laptop, DVD/Video, metronome or MP3/iPod gear into the system. A video/smartboard system with internet will give your students the opportunity to view performances of numerous artists and guitar related videos.
Methods books: Go to www.discoverguitar.com to find publishers who are GAMA members. This is a good start to identify guitar publishers/methods. Go to your local music store to get some recommendations. Accrue over time a number of different books for the variety of approaches and additional reading material.
Tuners: Students like the type that clamp on to the headstock because they pick up the vibrations of the instrument and are not affected by ambient sound in the room. For easy access for the students, velcro tuners to a convenient location in the room. There are numerous models available.
Metronome or Drum Machine: There are a wide variety of drum machines that have numerous pre-set beat patterns and styles. There are a number of apps that can be used as well. Your students will be more enthusiastic playing anything when you add a “drummer” to accompany them.
Capos: If you will be playing any contemporary music in class, capos will occasionally be used. Make sure you purchase the appropriate capo for nylon (flat fingerboard) or steel-string (convex fingerboard) guitar.
String and Fingerboard Maintenance: String Change Kit: peg head support block, string winder and string/wire cutter, needle-nose pliers, extra strings (1st for steel strings, for nylon: 1st and 4th strings), bridge pin puller (for steel). Note: many string winders have a slot that is to be used as a pin puller. Also consider protective eyewear. To clean the fingerboard use OOOO steel wool. Use lemon oil (bore oil for woodwind instruments works too) for the fingerboard. Have some guitar polish and cloth. If you are changing a number of strings a “chuck” is available for a variable-speed-reversible drill. There is a specific for guitar drill-type string-winder available. It uses batteries.
Guitar Maintenance: Use sewing machine oil or liquid graphite to lubricate guitar tuners. Most classic guitars don’t have truss rods (most steel strings do). Have appropriate “allen wrenches” for truss rod adjustments, note: these usually come supplied with the guitar. Use your local music store as a resource to repair your instruments if you are uncomfortable “fixing” your guitars. Damage to guitars should be repaired with wood glue not epoxy.
Replacement Strings: Negotiate with your local dealer to get the best possible prices for strings in bulk. Purchase numerous 4th and 1st strings for nylon string. High E & D are usually the first to break. New high E, B, and G nylon strings take a number of days to hold their pitch. On a steel string high E is the 1st to go.
Nail Care Kit: (For playing finger-style) “Diamond Deb” type file, nail clippers, 500 - 800 grit sandpaper (finishing paper).
Picks: Best picks are standard size, medium to hard. Thin picks are not recommended.
Manuscript paper: Both 5 line and 6 line (tablature) as well as blank chord grid are available commercially and can also be found on various websites.
Hand Sanitizer: and cloths to wipe down the strings and hands. Recommend that your students wash their hands before class especially after lunch. Think about pizza, french fries and orange slices on the guitars.
Pencils and erasers: Give written tests. It will reinforce what they are playing.
A Mirror: A full size mirror is a great way to reinforce your suggestions as students can see themselves playing and they can easily see if they are properly adjusting their posture/technique.
Additional Instruments: acoustic and/or electric bass, keyboards, electric guitars, and other fretted instruments like ukulele, mandolin, dobro and banjo.